Have you read Part one of this article? Get the first three tips on how to handle difficult people. Here's what we are going to cover in this article:
A mistake many leaders make is to hold performance improvement discussions with just low performers. Let's make sure you don't make that mistake!
Learn from elite sports coaches - Coach Up the entire team, all year
Elite sports coaches don't just talk to their team members at the start of the year, telling them what their roles and goals are, then disappear into the office for the rest of the season. Then come out at Grand Final time and ask them what went wrong that they aren't in the Grand Final!
Instead, sports coaches provide feedback, instruction, and inspiration throughout the year. Week in, week out. They coach up their stars, their regular, and their weaker performers.
If you've been an 'avoider' of providing performance feedback - now is the time to declare your intent to change.
Have a meeting with your entire team and share your commitment to creating a high-performance workplace and your vision (which you read about in Tip 1) for making it a great place to work.
Absolutely avoid giving the message you are going to shape everyone up! Think more of yourself as a sporting coach.
The message you want to give to your team is ... "let's be the 'rockstars' in our industry. I want us to focus on moving toward our potential as individuals and as a team".
Get them involved in a vision for making this the best place to work. A place where they can shine a spotlight on their potential. Encourage them that your hope is they will want to be a part of making it happen.
That you want to coach them to be rockstars in your team, your company, your industry!
Of course, expect some cynicism, especially if you've previously been mediocre at handling under-performers. Don't let that stop you. Stay focused on and committed to your vision!
Be consistent and regular
You can avoid working with difficult people if, on a regular and consistent basis, you let people know how they are going. You can do this easily during normal day-to-day activities by acknowledging when people are doing well, as well as providing performance-gap feedback. Do so as soon as you observe a change (either good or bad) to reinforce what you want and where you are heading.
Certainly, you don't want to come across as an annoying cheerleader or a carping criticizer - in any of these conversations (formal or informal). Make sure your tone is easy, your approach/mindset is "I'm wanting to help you be at your absolute best" and encourage not discourage.
To be clear: If you haven't been holding regular performance improvement discussions with ANYONE in your team, then don't just single out the poor performers. Coach up the high performers to more of their potential as well.
Tip Five: Hold Regular, More Formal Coach Up Meetings
Setting up a 'formal' one-on-one with each of your team members, to talk about what is and isn't working helps you and the team to achieve excellence. Of course, this 'formal' one-on-one doesn't replace your daily interactions, where you are guiding and inspiring your people.
I strongly encourage all leaders I coach to set up regular (monthly at a minimum) meetings where they sit down quietly for 15-30 mins with each of their team members to talk about things like:
Yes, they may arrive with an entirely different list from yours. However, this can set you up for a robust and frank discussion.
Let them know:
Keeping people engaged at work means showing them that you see them as their best and you expect nothing less. For more on how to run successful regular one-on-one meetings (without running out of topics to talk about) check out the One-On-One Meetings Training
Set up the formal Coach Up meetings
Now set up meetings with each individual. Experience suggests the best way to do this to:
There are a few reasons for doing it this way.
Firstly, people look to see who is getting the most attention and use this to decide which group has the most power. Talking to high performers first sends a clear message that this is where your focus is going to be.
Isn't it ironic that the vast majority of most leaders' time is spent with poor performers and working with difficult people? And with only the occasional nod to people who are doing a great job?! High-performance team leaders give MOST attention to their best and mid-line performers.
Secondly, the high performers will let others know that having the one-to-one is 'no biggy' and that they are excited by where you are going as a team.
Thirdly, it gives you, the leader, the chance to practice your skills in holding performance feedback discussions, guiding the conversation in the direction you want and strengthens YOU before you begin working with difficult people.
You can expect weaker performer(s) to arrive with little, to no performance improvements and to push back quite firmly against any negative feedback you give them. They are also likely to blame systems and others for their poor performance, rather than their behaviors and skills.
To have had training in a program like Successful Feedback will enable you to handle this discussion. I won't kid you. Working with difficult people is never easy. But with some skills, you can certainly tackle the conversations with a degree of calmness and confidence.
Make sure you aren't part of the problem
Finally, don't be afraid of asking what you do that hinders. Remember the saying, 'the truth shall set you free'.
Sure there may be things they don't want you to do and that you AREN'T going to stop doing. That's okay. Simply be clear about what you are willing to change and what you aren't.
Be willing though, to listen with an open mind and look carefully at the things they say you are doing that hinders them. If the feedback is consistent across the team, it is something you should give strong consideration to modifying.